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Thread: First try with a 14.5

  1. #1
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    First try with a 14.5

    First time with a 14.5 and the biggest problem I had was keeping the heat up. I couldn’t start until late in the day, so I tried the recipe found elsewhere on this site for boneless skinless chicken breasts, which were supposed to smoke in about an hour. I hit them with my favorite rub and then started the charcoal in the chimney. I used Kingsford and a full chimney. Here’s where I may have got off the track: I took the ring out, and “spread” the charcoal as I interpreted the directions. I added two chunks of hickory, and put together the smoker with the meat, and all vents fully open. I had two breasts on the lower rack with 3 sausages I had left over from another recipe, and four breasts on the top rack. Temp never got above 210-215 by the lid thermometer. After 1.75 hours the internal temp was still at 140-145. I was pressed for time so I finally just finished the meat on my gas grill for two minutes a side. The chicken breasts tasted great with a smokey flavor that was pronounced but not too strong. They were not dry.

    The charcoal was almost all burned away when I went back out to clean up after supper. The few coals that were left were still hot, though. I may try a pork butt next, but I’m concerned about the charcoal being almost completely consumed in less than two hours, even though the temps never got above 215.

    Part of why I was pressed for time was that a storm front was moving in. I wasn’t able to put the cover on before it hit. Got up this monrning and now I’m faced with the bottom of the smoker filled with wet ash that has dried into adobe. I hope I can get that all cleaned out and dried before the next storm hits today.
    So that’s my story.

  2. #2
    TVWBB Diamond Member Len Dennis's Avatar
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    The long time was (as you intimated) was the low temps (210o) . They'll do in an hour (same as in an oven) if the temps are at least 325o. Only difference between the WSM and an oven is 1)smoke and 2)the oven is easier to adjust for temps.

    Cooking times at the same temps are the same whether using the WSM or an oven.

    Next time. start with more lit coals in your chimney to get the temps up faster/hotter.
    So many recipes, so little time
    : Genesis gas grill 18.5" WSM Maverick ET-732 :

  3. #3
    TVWBB Pro Lew Newby's Avatar
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    Welcome to the forum. That was a great first post. I don't know how much you've cooked with charcoal but from the minute you poured the chimney full on the grate the heat was only going down but you should of had an hour of good heat. If you had water in the pan it would have kept the temp down and the lid thermometer could be off by 50 degrees. An electronic thermometer like the Maverick will give you grate temp pretty accurately. Were all vents fully open? With a full chimney of lit charcoal I get temps over 300° on my 14.5.

    I always use the charcoal ring and I always have some unlit there that I put the hot coals over. That gives me new coals being lighted as the hot coals burn down..I just foil the water pan for high heat cooks - no water. Getting the adobe out will take a little work.

    Congrats - you got your first cook under your belt and the food was good. That's a good start.
    Old dog, learning new tricks - one cook at a time :-). -14.5" & 22.5" WSM, 1998 22" Performer with Vortex, Auber ATC. CB Rotisserie, Rec Tec Mini Pellet Grill

  4. #4
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    I don't have a 14,so can't really say. But it sounds like you only used lit charcoal from the chimney? You should use the ring,and put unlit in the ring,and pour (maybe 10) lit coals on top of that. Then bring up to temp with vents open.
    I have done the skinless chicken breast recipe many times,and really like it. http://www.virtualweberbullet.com/chicken5.html The chicken can be used for all sorts of things like burritos,salads. Or just plain old BBQ sauce and tater chips. I think the recipe is intended for the bulk kind you get frozen though,which are smaller. If your store is like mine,and you buy their better unfrozen breasts,they are huge,and take a good 2 to 2 1/2 hours. I like the fresh chicken over the frozen. While the bulk frozen is way cheaper, the huge fresh chicken comes out way better in my opinion.
    Don't hesitate to try it again. The more times you do it the better it gets

  5. #5
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    New to WSM. Also got 14.5 inch. Initial cook with 5lb butt to get a feel of how it worked. Had same problem with getting the temp up. Temp kept backing down to 205-220 range. Checked configuration, wind, vents and other low temp fixes listed on site. Finished meat in oven at 300 for 1.5 hour to get temp to 195 and it tasted fine. Followed up next day with 2X7lb butts. This time I did full chimney on top of coals in ring to make sure I had enough heat for full load plus water. Same problem. The only way I could get the temp up was to take the door off completely for 5-10 minutes. With extra oxygen, the fire perked up quickly. But once the door was back on, I was back down to 205-220 range. After 10 hours meat was still in 155-165 range and I was out of time so finished in oven - results still good. Next day did same with 2X7lbs butts and this time did whole chimney, waited for ash, poured onto ring with additional coals, waiting for that to also ash and then assembled the cooker. Same problem. Again, removing door periodically was only way to get heat up - but clearly I'm doing something wrong since, from what I've read, temp should be easily controlled with vents? I never closed top vent and all bottom 3 were also fully open. Weather pretty sunny/hot no wind. Wondering if 14.5 inch behaves differently to larger models?

    PS. reason i cooked 33lbs of pulled pork in two days was for a party. Not my normal consumption. I do love the stuff - but will be taking a break from pulled pork in the near term! Would love to figure out the temp issue.

  6. #6
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    Follow up to my first post: I did do a test burn when I first got the WSM and had no problem with temps up to 300+ with no meat and no water. Used a full chimney and just let it go until it burned out.

  7. #7
    TVWBB Pro Chris W.'s Avatar
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    I've got a 14.5" and I used to have the same issues. My issue was that I was foiling the grates when I put jalapeno poppers on - the foil did not help the airflow up the sides, which hampered temps.

    If you're using water in the pan, I'd advise against it. In my 18.5", I use a foiled ceramic platter, but in the 14.5", I just foil the water pan and use it dry. The only thing I can recall using the 14.5" for is the poppers and ribs - I have always been worried that the charcoal wouldn't last for a pork butt cook, and a brisket just plain won't fit on it. My rib cooks were 4-5 hours, and I had no problem maintaining 225-250 for the duration. I had coals in the ring (maybe 1/4 to 1/3 filled) and put a whole charcoal chamber of lit coals on.

    It could also be that you simply have a WSM that runs a bit cold. My 18.5" runs cold - on a typical smoke, I struggle to get over 275 degrees (dome temp; I've never tested the therm, but I've always gone with the dome therm and it's always worked for me) with a full chamber of lit coals. And it could be you just need to let the smoker get seasoned for a few cooks, and then temps will get up once some of the gaps are sealed up.

    In any case, welcome to the forum, and I hope you get your temp issues figured out!
    14.5" WSM, 18.5" WSM, 18.5" OTS, 22.5" OTG, SJS, Spirit E-210

  8. #8
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    I tried two more times, once with chicken (1 hour, 250 steady as a rock) once with ribs, (also steady temp but with one minor spike to 350). Maybe its your charcoal? Gotta think some experienced folks can help.

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